ULTRAMAN ZERO: INSERT EPICALLY LONG MOVIE SUBTITLE HERE!
It's interesting to watch the evolution of the Ultraman fandom in the english-speaking community. A couple years ago, the average active tokusatsu fan among them might say that they're not interested in Ultraman much at all, and instead are almost exclusively devoted to Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, Power Rangers, or Rescue Force. Part of this may be due to the fact that Ultraman is the only giant superhero that fights animalistic kaiju on a regular basis, and engages in less traditional martial arts action as we've come to know it in many other titles from this genre. Part of it may also be the emphasis on a limited timeframe for the Ultraman to remained "transformed" in a fight (though some of them don't have such rigid restrictions). It seems that, tonally speaking, Ultraman has managed to set itself apart from the other franchises somehow, with often much grander, sometimes theatrical storytelling about the value of all mankind, preserving nature, and all that wholesome good stuff, which might not always connect with certain fringe audience members.
Whatever the reason, the newer Ultras hadn't been a hit with many english-speaking fans... until Ultraman Zero showed up. He was featured in the most recent movie, bringing nearly every Ultraman together for a massive event the likes of which Ultra fans had never quite seen before. Not to that extent anyway. There was a bit of interesting plot sprinkled here and there, but for the most part, the movie was one giant, orgasmic fight scene blissfully stretched across an hour and a half, directed by action extraordinaire Koichi Sakamoto. Since then, the fandom has started taking a great deal more notice of the Ultra guys and their newest son, Zero. Who, as one might expect, was shown to be unbelievably powerful in the new movie.
It's no surprise that we'll be getting another movie, which pits Ultraman Zero against a familiar enemy. There be spoilers ahead for his first movie, in case you're one of the unfortunate souls who missed the badassery the first time through.
"Ultraman Zero The Movie: Super Decisive Battle! Belial's Galactic Empire"
Looks like Zero will be in need of a transformation device this time around. Which means he's going to have a human form. The first movie was a bit surprising in the fact that it included huge armies of Ultra characters, but most of them remain in their crazy helmet-headed forms for the entire duration of the story. Even in dialogue scenes.
Zero's henshin device is a pair of "glasses" that remind one of the Ultra Eyes that his father, Ultraseven, uses. Nice bit of nostalgic detail there. I like the updated design.
To be honest, I've never liked it when the Ultra guys pull out weapons. More often than not, they tend to look a bit on the hokey side. I mean, more than usual for toku in general. But it looks like this particular item is given to him by Daddy Seven, so that's cool.
In this form, it looks a bit like a royal scepter. Or at least a "good" version of Belial's own dark staff.
Wow. I was never a big fan of Belial's suit design, but I have to admit, this particular image makes him look fantastic.
Bring on the new movie with the impossibly lengthy title! This time, with two full hours of unapologetic, uninterrupted, head-smashing, bone-breaking, explosion-enducing battle action that will leave the audience dead in their seats by the time the end credits start to roll. Transformers, eat your metallic heart out.